The consequences of rapid growth
Not only did your business survive the pandemic, but it grew – perhaps faster than ever before. It may seem like it has grown too fast, placing undue burdens on you and your team. Rapid growth can lead to a number of challenges for businesses as systems and resources that were adequate to meet a lower level of demand are stretched thin, and supply chains are at the top of the list of business growing pains.
To ensure that you’re managing recent growth and can maintain this pace of business going forward, it may be necessary to evaluate your supply chain and make changes that will reduce your burden today and ensure a smoother path to continued future growth.
Assessing my supply chain: Where should I focus?
The first step is to review your supply chain and how you manage it. Identify areas that are causing problems now, or that you feel are at risk of becoming a problem in the future.
Those problems and risks can include external factors such as critical supplies that are prone to delay, quality control failures or vendor relationship challenges. They could also involve storage, access, processing and shipping challenges once the supplies are within your system. You might also flag nodes of your supply chain that are at risk from , tariffs and taxes. While you are making your assessment, also take note of what is working well – areas where the supplies and your management of them are robust and efficient.
Armed with a clear view of your supply chain’s strengths and weaknesses, you can now consider what changes you should prioritize, including:
- Finding alternative sources,
- Adapting your supply chain management system,
- Looking for new ways to be efficient,
- Leveraging digital technology, and
- Promoting workforce training and adaptability.
Explore alternative sources
Demand growth can put a strain on your access to essential supplies while increasing the stakes if there are any delays, delivery shortfalls or problems with quality. Rapid increases in demand for certain products during the pandemic continue to highlight the fragility or lack of scalability in some business’ supply chains. Meanwhile, beyond the pressures of the pandemic, other risks have emerged as supply chains grow more complex, including barriers created by trade disputes, shipping bottlenecks and other factors outside of your control.
Seeking and identifying alternative suppliers can help you meet your increased demand while reducing the risk of not having access to your critical materials when you need them. The solution or solutions you identify will depend on your unique circumstances, but you may have options to:
- Improve scalability by finding multiple suppliers that can help you meet your rising demand – and that reduce the risk of a single point of failure for your critical supplies.
- Reduce the distance supplies need to travel and/or borders they need to cross through finding suppliers closer to you.
- Identify suppliers with better quality control and transparency into their own operations to reduce quality risks.
Adapt your supply chain management system to your new volume of business
You may have discovered that the internal processes that have served your business well enough in the past are stressed to the breaking point by your recent growth. If your supply chain management system is not designed to accommodate the greater demand your business is experiencing, it is probably time to adapt that system – or replace it with a new one that is better suited to your current needs.
Start by identifying any internal processes that are creating strain and look for ways to make them replace overly complex elements with more streamlined ones or redesign them completely to fit your new operating environment. For example, if your processes are still largely manual and paper-based, you might be able to take advantage of newer digital systems that can automate – or eliminate entirely – certain tasks.
Look for new ways to be efficient
While the higher demand for your products and services might be putting new pressures on your supply chain, it also means there may be opportunities to find new efficiencies and cost savings as the volume of supplies you are ordering increases.
As always, your business’ specific needs will determine where the greatest efficiencies can be found, but some good places to consider are:
- Look for discounts associated with the higher volumes.
- Look for ways to bundle your orders that might provide discounts on supply and/or shipping costs.
- Redesign your internal processes to manage higher volumes with less cost or effort per unit.
- Explore options for digitization and automation and how they might save you time and money.
Modernize your systems through digitization
If your business is using a more manual supply chain management system, you may be investing an increasing number of hours – and costs – into making it work. Leveraging digital tools or moving to an online supply management system may alleviate your growing pains, while also offering new opportunities to power future growth.
Many supply chain administration functions can be digitized, automated and moved online to increase speed, stability and security. Streamlining tasks you may do through separate channels now, such as ordering, shipment tracking, customs, payment and more, can make your supply chain management more efficient, cost effective and secure.
Digital supply chain management tools can also be used to make continuous improvements to your procurement operations as well as other aspects of your business. Data that these systems capture in real time can be analysed to help you look for new efficiencies, identify business trends and spot new growth opportunities sooner. Additionally, it can help customize and tailor products and services to better fit with customer needs and help generate innovation.
Ensure your workforce is adaptable and well trained
Additionally, while this may be a longer-term recommendation, consider adaptability when making workforce decisions in order to maximize your return on investment in any future operational shifts you may wish to make.
Support for efforts to train, up-skill or re-train your employees may be available. For example, you may be eligible for a number of provincial and federal incentives and grants that include workforce training.
Have questions? Let us help.
Contemplating changes to your supply chain can seem daunting—but you aren’t alone. We understand the issues that affect your business and will work with you to find the best way forward. Whether you're wrestling with supplier issues, adapting internal supply management or leveraging technology, our advisors are in your corner.